Samsung’s new sensor will bring ‘portrait mode’ to cheaper phones


If you’re a fan of the blurred background “portrait mode” shots taken on phones like the Apple iPhone or Samsung Note 8, get ready for way more smartphones to be capable of this in the near future.

And the good news is, a lot of them are likely to be a lot more affordable than Apple and Samsung’s pricey flagships.

On Wednesday, Samsung, which also supplies phone parts to other makers, announced a new 12 megapixel image sensor chip that comes with a dual pixel design.

Those split pixels are key to generating that depth photo effect — and with a single lens, instead of the two lenses we see with the iPhone Plus versions and Note 8.

The new chip, under Samsung’s broader Isocell line, is called the Fast 2L9. Its dual pixels are able to offer the slightest shift in perspective when a shot is taken. In a split second, the phone uses the difference between the two shots, in order to figure out what’s to be kept sharp in the foreground, and what to blur in the background.

The new 2L9 sensor.

The new 2L9 sensor.

We’ve already seen this technology in action with Google’s latest Pixel 2 smartphone, which uses a dual pixel sensor. Right now, the main competition achieves the bokeh effect with two lenses — one wide angle and one telephoto.

Samsung said its latest chips were designed in response to “market demand for sleeker smartphones with advanced features.” 

Squeezing the dual pixel capability into a 1.28μm sensor means we’ll see more phone makers be able to shave down cost and size needed for a second lens, to offer portrait mode on midrange to higher-end hardware.

Guess we can expect to see way more of those depth effect food photos on Instagram.

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